Tributes to Frank Blackmore
by Edmund Waddell and others...

Today I have the sad duty to report the death of Mr. Frank Blackmore, in London, Thursday June 5, 2008. Mr. Blackmore was 92.

Frank was born in Algeria in 1916, to a British father and Swiss/French mother. He received his engineering diploma from the School of Engineering at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne - EPFL) in 1937, and worked at the Borough Engineer's Department in Colchester, England until September 1939.

Mr. Blackmore joined the Royal Air Force in 1939, served as a pilot during World War II, and received the Air Force Cross in 1944. He retired as Wing Commander in 1959 and was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1977.

With the Transport and Road Research Laboratory (now TRL) from 1960-1981, Mr. Blackmore headed a research effort to improve the efficiency and safety of intersections, leading in particular to the development of small roundabouts, mini roundabouts, and multiple roundabouts. The effort included investigation of junction problems, design of roundabouts and systems of roundabouts, experimental designs on test track and public roads, and lecturing in the UK and many other countries. Blackmore's ground-breaking innovations at TRL were instrumental in the technological development of modern roundabouts, and in introducing modern roundabouts in the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Thailand, Iraq, Jordan, Norway, and the United States. His work inspired a generation of roundabout aficionados around the world. In the years since, Frank's pioneering efforts in roundabouts have prevented countless thousands of deaths and injuries worldwide - and will continue to do so for decades to come.

Of men like Frank, it was once said: "The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day." (Winston Churchill during the Battle of Britain, August, 1940.) Frank Blackmore was among the rarest of the few, who - first in war, and then again in peace - twice earned the gratitude of all humanity.

Ed Waddell USA

I worked with Frank from 1970 when I joined TRL until I moved on to Berkshire County Council in January 1975. I kept in touch for some years and he encouraged me with many schemes that I introduced in the area during that period until I moved to North Yorkshire in 1988. I next and last saw Frank at his 80th birthday party at Finchampstead in 1996. I was just on the verge of publishing Mini-roundabouts - Getting them right! at that time.  I had come very close to leaving Engineering in 1993 after being made redundant twice but I felt ultimately that I had a lot of knowledge that Frank had taught me and that I had subsequently learnt on the ground. I felt I could not let that go and am pleased that I pressed on.

However, it is not easy when the powers that be seem determined to publish things that are not correct and I know that Frank had his share of upsets with the "men and women from the ministry"!

Frank is acknowledged in my work and was upheld as one of the great pioneers of roundabout work at the Kansas conference (May 2008). I hope that the tributes pour in and it will be lovely to hear from others who were with him at TRL. I have the fondest memories of a really good period in my early working years with Frank and I am only sorry that I did not make much contact since 1996.

Clive Sawers UK

Chère Anna, 

Je ne vous connais pas mais Frank m'a tellement parlé de vous lors de ses nombreux voyages à Nantes qu'il me semble être un peu de votre famille. C'est pourquoi, lorsque Bernard Guichet m'a appris la nouvelle, hier soir, ma tristesse a été grande et elle l'est toujours. Frank était un grand ami et il m'a tant appris. Je lui suis si redevable. Il n'y a pas un jour où je n'applique pas à mon tour les principes qu'il m'a inculqués.

A Saint-Herblain d'abord, puis à Nantes et dans toute l'agglomération nantaise, son influence est visible et j'ai essayé d'amplifier son oeuvre du mieux que j'ai pu. Je peux dire qu'en partie, je vis de ce qu'il m'a appris, même si ses enseignements de bon sens sont souvent si mal reçus. On dit souvent que Nantes est devenue "champion du monde des ronds-points"! C'est grâce à lui. Par la suite, les ronds points inspirés par Frank ont rencontrés les tramways et les équipes nantaises ont eu l'occasion de concevoir de nouvelles innovations uniques au monde. C'est encore grâce à lui. Jean-Marc Ayrault, d''abord maire de Saint-Herblain puis de Nantes et aujourd'hui Président de Nantes-Métropole l'appréciait beaucoup et c'est très souvent que nous parlons ensemble de lui quand nous nous rencontrons. Vous me permettrez de lui faire part du décès de Frank. En fait Frank plane toujours au-dessus de nos têtes, avec quelque chose d'éternel! Je l'entend encore nous dire - et je relate moi-même souvent ses expressions - : " tu ralentis les voitures à 15- 20 km/h à l'heure et tu leur fait faire ce que tu veux!" ou "ce ne sont pas des ronds-points, ce sont des "arrangements" (avec l'accent anglais)" ou " tu évases les entrées, mais au dernier moment" ou "n'oublie d'aller voir la nuit, les techniciens le font si rarement", etc. Il était venu souvent chez nous à Nantes lors de ses missions et il était de la famille. Mon épouse Marie-Laure l'appréciait beaucoup aussi. Ces derniers temps, après un long moment de séparation, je cherchais justement à le recontacter pour qu'il revienne nous parler de sa passion et curieusement mon assistante n'arrivait pas à retrouver sa trace...

Anna, je vous prie d'accepter toutes mes condoléances. Je prie et prierai pour le repos de l' âme de Frank, en me rappelant nos passionnantes discussions théologiques (même si nous n'étions pas toujours d'accord!). J'ai bien noté la date du samedi 14 juin à 11am. Je serai avec vous par la pensée, croyez le bien. Je vous embrasse affectueusement ainsi que tous les membres de votre famille. 


Dear Anna, 

I do not know you but Frank spoke so much about you on his many trips to Nantes that I feel a little like your family. So, when I learned the news from Bernard Guichet yesterday evening, it was with great sadness. Frank was a great friend and he taught me so much. I am very indebted to him. Never a day passes when I do not apply in my turn the principles he taught me.

 His influence is visible in Saint-Herblain d' access, then in Nantes and in all the Nantes agglomeration, where I attempted to amplify his work as best I could. I can say in part, I live by what he taught me, even if his good sense lesson is often so poorly understood. It is often said that Nantes became " world champion of roundabouts"! This is thanks to him. Thereafter, the roundabouts inspired by Frank met the trams and the Nantes teams had l' occasion to conceive new single innovations around the world. This too is thanks to him. Jean-Marc Ayrault, d' ' access mayor of Saint-Herblain then of Nantes and aujourd', now President of Nantes-Metropolis, greatly appreciated Frank and we often speak of Frank when we meet. I will inform him of Frank’s death. In fact Frank always planes above our heads, with something d' eternal! I He still speaks to us - and I often use his expressions myself -: "You slow down traffic to 15 - 20 km/h with l' hour and you make them do what you want! " or "They are not roundabouts, they are " arrangements" (with an English accent) " or " You widen the entries, but at the last moment" or " Never forget to visit at night, to assure the technicians make it if visible" , etc Frank came often to our home in Nantes during his missions, and was part of the family. My wife Marie-Laure appreciated him too. Lately, after a long separation, I tried to contact Frank to return and speak to us about his passion, but curiously my assistant could not locate him.

Anna, please accept all my condolences. I pray and will pray for the rest of l' heart of Frank, by pointing out our enthralling theological discussions to me (even if us n' were not always d' agreement!). I noted the date Saturday June 14 at 11am. I will be with you by the thought, believe the good. I affectionately embrace you and all the members of your family. 


A computer translation of the original French text on the left.

Wing Commander Frank Cuendet Blackmore O.B.E. 
Maverick mini roundabout inventor
This tribute received from Anna Blackmore (daughter)

Frank Blackmore was the innovative, outspoken and determined Traffic Engineer who was responsible for introducing the use of right hand priority and who invented the mini roundabout and the multiple 'Magic Roundabouts'. ( Giving way to the right and mini-roundabouts are so much a feature of our lives now it's hard to comprehend how radical they were then and also to appreciate the battle he had to fight to get his ideas accepted and implemented. However, he did win his battle and an O.B.E.

He was born and brought up in Fort National, Algeria, of a Swiss/French mother and a British missionary father, who may have helped instill in him his life long habit of putting others before himself (which endured even through the ravages of dementia). From an early age he delighted his mother by inventing little devices to solve practical problems (such as a fly trap constructed from matchsticks). He was bilingual and held dual nationality until obliged to give up his French passport during the WW2 German occupation of France. He studied engineering in Lausanne, Switzerland and came to work in Britain in 1936. (A famous family story is of his dramatic dash to Colchester in the midst of his final exams, how he managed to persuade a pilot to fly him from Croydon to Friday Woods airfield in Essex, did his interview, got the engineering job, flew back to Croydon thence returned to Lausanne to finish his exams.) In the war he joined the RAF and, as a pilot of Wellingtons, was closely involved in the early successful testing of the Leigh Light. This was used at night to spot and destroy the German U boats, which were attacking the allied convoys across the Atlantic. Another famous family story is of a war time emergency forced landing he made on the beach at Ardnamurchan Point, on the West coast of Scotland (which some of the locals remember to this day) where there was nothing but a telephone box, and how they had to be rescued by sea. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1944. After the war he remained in the RAF until 1959, working for the Air Ministry in London and then for a time for NATO, in France and finally as Air Attaché and interpreter at the embassy in Beirut, where he had some 'clandestine' duties. All we know of these was that he recorded, via holes drilled through the wall, conversations in the neighbouring apartment, which was occupied by Russian embassy staff.

In 1960 he joined what was then the Road Research Laboratory (RRL). There he developed an interest in junction design, and became keen to work on improving traffic flow to clear bottle necks, and in the firm belief this would help to reduce accidents. This interest grew into a passion, out of which the mini-roundabout was born. Revolutionary at that time, these have since become commonplace, both in the UK and other countries. Initially he worked on his designs unofficially and in his own time, because he was something of a maverick and his ideas were too radical to be taken seriously. It was a long hard battle and it wasn't until he got his suggestion accepted to introduce right hand priority at junctions that he began to gain credibility. The inspiration came in France where he saw right hand priority, in a right hand drive system, causing ever increasing congestion at major intersections (he once climbed the Arc de Triomphe, not to admire the view of Paris, but to observe the traffic below). Then the first mini-roundabout* was laid in Peterborough in October 1968. His passion became an obsession and family holidays were regularly punctuated with stops at intersections while he took photos from every possible vantage point. (The family holiday snaps were the dullest in the history of holiday snaps, containing not people, views or tourist sights, but cars, roads and traffic signs!). He devised a system for taking photographs, of the whole of a junction in a single frame, by using a camera mounted on a crane above the junction with the lens pointing upwards into a concave mirror. His main idea was that the mini roundabout should be just a guide to make clear to users which driver always had priority at the junction and how to pass each other, if approaching from opposite directions and turning right. Thus he simplified it down to a mere white circle painted in the middle, which one could just drive over, if no one else was using the junction. He also used mini roundabouts to aid flow at large junctions, creating the multiple roundabout. Two of his projects are the so-called Magic Roundabouts in Swindon and Hemel Hempstead. Both of which have their enthusiastic supporters and their vociferous detractors - people love them or hate them.

* Only in 1975 was a mini-roundabout defined as being fully traversable; it is understood that the Peterborough scheme was what we would now describe as a small roundabout of approx. 6m central island diameter. The first true mini-roundabout was probably the one Frank installed in South Benfleet in May 1970. This was closely followed by his schemes at Upton Cross, Dorset (June 1970) - a double mini-roundabout, and Eastcote, NW London (two mini-roundabouts in July 1970). All remain in operation and can be seen clearly on satellite images. (Links as shown open in a new window.) The Truro double mini-roundabout installed in May 1971 also remains with only the slightest modification.

In 1975 he won the last Wolfe Award for his work on roundabout priority and in 1976 he received an O.B.E. After his retirement he continued as a Consultant at the TRRL and on projects in Bangkok, Baghdad, Nantes in France, and California.

Socially he was a shy, self effacing and sometimes almost embarrassingly generous, (once quite literally offering someone the shirt he was wearing and which they'd admired). He also had very much his own way of doing things, could be argumentative, stubborn and difficult.

Frank Blackmore, Civil Engineer, born Algeria 16th February 1916, died London 5th June 2008, aged 92. Married Ginon Dufour 1939, widowed in 1942. Married Eva Johnson 1945, divorced 1969. Civil partnership with Eliane Lavallée from 1970 until her death April 2008. Leaves three children by his second wife, 5 grandchildren and 3 great grand children. 

He will be very much missed.

I have warmest feelings for this great gentleman. He reminded me of my father when I last saw him. This was during a visit with his daughter Anna to our home in Santa Barbara a few years ago. I truly miss his smiling face.

I urge those who are fighting the good fight for roundabouts to remember Frank Blackmore. Against much resistance and conventional wisdom, Frank won very early on in the U.K., France, and Switzerland, and we will win in the U.S., Canada, and all other countries where we persevere. Eventually the well designed modern roundabout will become accepted as the safest type of intersection wherever high-speed roads or high-flow roads cross.

To win with roundabouts, we need Frank Blackmore's spunk. Frank never let authority get in his way. If he is in heaven now, he is telling God how to redesign heaven's intersections.

Leif Ourston (Ourston Roundabouts)

Read Frank's obituary in The Times online...

If you would like to add a tribute to Frank, please email me and I will add it to this page...

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Dec 2014
The above tributes all came in very shortly after Frank's death in 2008